Thursday, July 16, 2009

A video introduction to me, Nina Aksell. A bit about my life.

The other day I made my first video for the internet. I made it to publish on my website Piggy Publishing Adventures as an introduction to me, a bit about my life so far. I thought you may like to have a look too.

Find more videos like this on Piggy Publishing Adventures

Monday, July 13, 2009

Me and my kids.


I realized my blog was looking a little dull and that you may like to see a couple of photos of me and my kids to get a bit more of a glimpse of who I am.

These photos were taken a few weeks ago here in Gothenburg, Sweden.

How to find your illustrating style when writing and illustrating your first picture book.

For those of you visiting this blog for the first time this post is part of a series here about how to write and illustrate your first children's picture book. This is really meant to be a little course for amateurs who would love to write and illustrate a picture book for the children in their lives. I reccommend you have a look at my earlier posts here if this sounds like something for you.

In previous posts you can also read some of the books I have written and illustrated for my little ones.

So, here goes...

How to find your illustrating style when writing and illustrating your first picture book.

a) Now it is time to really have fun. This is where you get to go back to nursery and play. If you can remember just drawing/painting without any worry about the outcome, just to have fun, then that is the state of mind if would be great for you to have while you play with discovering your illustrating style!

b) You can start with having a look at drawings and paintings you and your child may have done together. When you look there you will see you already have a style! And your child probably thinks your illustrations are great!? If not great at least fun or funny.

Hint: The quality of the illustrations is not important, what is important is that you have fun. You can also go through this process while your child doing their art at the same time.

c) Now get out some of your children’s art supplies (whatever is close at hand), clear a space at your kitchen table and play around with drawing/painting/ cutting and pasting. Have fun, go for it. Don’t worry about end results, right now you are just playing to find the illustrating style that works the best for you!

Here is a list of examples of materials you may think about using to illustrate your book.
- Children’s water colour paints
- Children’s coloured pencils.
- Crayons.
- Paper (white and coloured) to draw, paint on.
- Plain copy paper to do sketches on.
- Pencils and erasers
- Newspapers and magazines for cutting out.
- Old wrapping paper for cutting out and sticking.
- Fabric
- Printed out photos of you and your kids.

Hint: If you find yourself stuck have a look at styles of illustrations in your children’s picture books for ideas- some of the illustrations you may be surprised to find are incredibly simple. And once again, if stuck the simpler the better! You can even draw in the style your child draws if you find it all too much.

d) Have a look at your artwork and decide which style you will use for your first book. In my opinion it should be the style you enjoy the most.

e) Now that you have decided on a way of illustrating it is time to play around with the look of your main character (if you have one). This character’s qualities will need to be relatively consistent so that the child recognises him or her in each picture. Once again, play around for a while. No need to rush a decision.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My favourite childhood storybooks

For a while now I’ve been meaning to write a post listing my favourite childhood picture books. Until today I could only come up with two, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss (both of which I read to my children today).

I remember nursery rhymes and songs (I loved and still love singing).

Nothing else really sprang to mind and I wondered if it was because my parents didn’t read to me often (but I do have an impression they read to me and my brother every night) so I didn’t think that was the reason. Maybe I was just to young to remember? Maybe I just needed something to jog my memory?

So, today I decided to see if my memory would be jogged and looked at a list someone had made up of popular picture books from the 1970s and 1980s and suddenly some memories started to flow in.

Here are the picture books I loved,

The Flower Fairies Series by Cicely Mary Barker.

I was so in love with these books. The idea of a fairy world and the beautiful illustrations completely hooked me. I remember daydreaming for hours about how wonderful it would be to be a fairy.

The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck by Beatrix Potter (and the whole Beatrix Potter series).

I was also in love with these books. The illustrations were completely magical to me and the idea of the animals living like humans was very appealing. I had guinea pigs, cats and a dog myself and I used to imagine us having conversations together.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss.

I remember I loved the rhymes and repetition. I remember The Cat in the Hat was the first book from which I could proudly read each word by myself without an adult even present. I was never too keen on the illustrations, they were a bit too wacky for my taste but non-the-less I loved the rhyme.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, illustrations by E.H. Shepard.

I loved the characters and the beautiful simple sketches. The Disney version the kids see today feels like a betrayal to me after those lovely illustrations by E.H. Shepard.

When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, illustrations by E.H.Shepard

I loved the poems and illustrations and the feeling that I was so close to the characters.

Lastly I must not forget The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This book was wonderful to me, to watch the journey of the caterpillar, to be able to repeat the words myself, the colours, the originality yet simplicity of the illustrations… a truly wonderful book in my opinion.

So, thank you, thank you, to the authors and illustrators of these books! You added a lot of joy to my childhood!

I also remember vividly being fascinated and frightened by classic fairytales,

Little Red Riding Hood (although I don’t remember which version)
Hansel and Gretel (probably the Brother’s Grimm version)
Snow White
The Three Little Pigs
The Ugly Duckling y Hans Christian Andersen

I haven’t introduced my children to these fairytales, not by any conscious choice but now I am looking at them I am not sure I am in any rush to do so. I remember the stories vividly and the pictures that accompanied them but I also remember feeling frightened of adults and the world after hearing these stories. I won’t do too deep a psychological analysis of myself (who knows where I may end up!) but for now I think my kids are doing ok without these stories.

I would love you to tell me about your favourite childhood books. I wonder if you share with me?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ramblings, children, stories, storybooks and being a mother

Today’s blog post is going to be different. My mind is ‘rambling’, so I thought I’d test out a rambling stream of consciousness post today...

My two greatest passions are children and stories. What I would love is, for everyone who wishes, to have the chance and support to express their creativity and tell their stories. As I love the simplicity of children’s storybooks and their way of usually looking at the bright side of life (as children do) it is through children’s storybooks I have found a way to mix my two passions.

By mixing the elements of children and stories into children’s storybooks written by the everyday person so many huge bonuses appear. In writing a children’s storybook you get to create something for your child that they will probably cherish forever; you allow yourself to slow down and give a little nourishment to your soul, your child has a story in which her life/fantasies are recognised as important. The process of writing and illustrating a children’s book is very creative and takes one away from the commercial world where so many are trying to sell you their ideas of happiness. The readers of the stories have the chance to learn about other people and cultures from the non-threatening perspective of childhood.

My background is as an actress and theatre director. Now that I am mother to two small children I don’t want to go away and work many hours as an actress and director but I still want to be creative and create stories. Writing and illustrating storybooks for my children allows me to use my craft when I want, it allows me to be creative without external pressures, it allows me to revel in the joys of being a mother, it allows me some time for myself, it allows me the chance to connect with my children in a unique way. It also allows me to be an unashamed amateur.

So, today I am rambling.

The other part of the ramble in my head is about the environment and this financial crisis. How can I set up a business and run it in a way that I feel is ethical? I want to run a business that focuses on the human spirit rather than on consuming things. I think a business in which people are encouraged to explore their creativity through creating children’s storybooks is a good solution... I hope....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How to write the story for your picture book

It is really hot in Gothenburg! I grew up in Australia so you would think a Swedish summer would be a walk in the park. Unfortunately my English skin is still very English and pale (and full of freckles) and so I am fading... But saying that, I have a new blog post here (so I musn't be suffering too much).

For those of you visiting my blog for the first time this blog post is a continuation of a series I have posted here on 'How to write and illustrate a picture book for your kids' A guide for beginners. If it sounds like something fun for you I encourage you to take a look at the other blog posts.

I’ll start with a little disclaimer. You may have realized already my advice on how to write a children’s story is not particularly technical or academic. What I am describing is just the most fun and practical way I have found for a beginner to write and illustrate a story.

a. You have chosen a theme and a story structure you and your child will enjoy and now is time to put some words to paper (if your book has words that is…). This is where the real fun starts. In a notebook or on a spare piece of paper write down your story. Watch and take note of the images that flow into your head. If what you are writing makes you smile you are on the right track.

Hint: Don’t worry about getting it right you can rewrite later (and there is no right or wrong for the purpose of this exercise). Just have fun and whatever happens.

b. Ok now it is time to break up your story into sentences on pages and to do a little sketch of the image you would like to have on each page. Your little sketch need only be of matchstick men. Play around, write, re-write, draw and re-draw. Have fun.

Hint: Try to keep your book to fewer than 13 pages! If it is too long you may loose interest in illustrating it and your child may loose interest in reading it!